Cash-friendly doctor experience with labs

So after about a five-year interval, I finally went in for an annual physical last week. I found a local doctor who is cash-friendly, which means he still takes insurance but also has a clear and simple fee schedule for those of us who are self-pay. All in all, I was very pleased and satisfied with the doctor (no, I’m not telling you who it was).

There was one thing that I discovered however, and pointed out to the doctor – his charges for labs were generally higher than what I could have had them done for had I gone elsewhere for the tests. They weren’t radically higher though, so it’s not like I was getting hit with ‘list’ prices that are normally used with insured patients (who of course get a ‘discount’ off of the inflated list price in our crazy world of health care prices).

He was surprised when I told him his lab prices were more than they needed to be, and said he’d love to find lower-cost labs since so many of his patients are self-pay. I spoke with him today, letting him know what I found. I thought it might be of interest to readers at The Self-Pay Patient as well.

I had a total of 6 tests from a single blood draw and urine sample. The tests and the charges were:

Comprehensive Metabolic ($45)

Lipids ($40)

TSH ($40)

Vitamin D ($45)

Complete Blood Count ($40)

Urinalysis ($20)

The total for the lab tests came to $240 after adding a $10 fee for the blood draw and specimen handling. How might I have fared had I gone to an independent lab to had the same tests done?

According to Econolabs, a discount lab service that contracts with labs around the country, I’d have saved $40, cutting my total cost down to $190. Here are the prices I found on their site:

 Comprehensive Metabolic ($28)

Lipids ($28)

TSH ($29)

Vitamin D ($58)

Complete Blood Count ($25)

Urinalysis ($22)

So two of the tests would have been more expensive and four less expensive, for total savings of $40. Econolabs doesn’t charge a blood draw or specimen handling fee, so I’d have saved $10 there too.

I also looked on the site Save On Labs, and found prices for several of the tests I had done. Their prices were generally more than Econolabs, but still less in most cases than those charged at my doctor’s office. For example, Comprehensive Metabolic test was $31.50 at Save On Labs, compared to $45 at my doctor’s and $28 at Econolabs.

The key to saving on these sorts of lab tests, of course, is to not go to the hospital for them – that’s where self-pay patients tend to get gouged the worst. But even at a cash-friendly office it pays to check the prices for labs and other services. In my case I neglected to ask beforehand how much the lab tests would be, so I wound up paying a bit more than I would have otherwise.

Fortunately, my doctor said that he called the lab he uses and they said they’d match the Econolab prices “across the board,” meaning I’d get the lower rates for four of the tests and the higher ones for the other two. Fair enough, so I eventually did save the $40 and it was probably worth the $10 in blood draw and specimen handling fees not to have to run around to another place.

I also found it interesting that when we were discussing the one prescription he gave me, for vitamin D, he told me “there’s a site called you can go to to find the best prices.” Of course, is one of my favorite sites, and I plan to follow my doctor’s advice here!

One final note – as self-pay patients, we often know more about some aspects of the self-pay market than the actual medical professionals. Be sure to share information with your cash-only and cash-friendly doctors about where self-pay patients can get the best value for their money, so they can incorporate that information into their practice.

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12 Responses to Cash-friendly doctor experience with labs

  1. Steven Martin says:

    Our community (Romney, WV) has a very nice annual Health Fair at a local church auditorium. The blood draw is done there and sent off to LabCorp, just like a doctor’s office does. The cost last year was $30. Folks should check into these types of local events. Think outside the doctor’s office!

  2. Robert Cihak says:

    There’s also . In Seattle they use Laboratory Corporation (LabCorp). And, they have monthly Specials, e.g., last December they had comprehensive blood panel including CBC, some lipids, enzyme, electrolytes, TSH, etc. for $59 instead of the usual $97.

  3. Our prices are listed on our website ( Our physical package (cbc, cmp, lipid panel, tsh, urinalysis) is $105. It is definitely advisable to see a cash only/cash friendly doctor if you pay for medical care with HSA or cash or else you’ll spend way too much on medical care and labs.

  4. Jerome Bigge says:

    Members of Sams Club can take advantage of what appears to be a quarterly offer to get much of the labs a doctor might request as part of their membership. I’ve also seen offers by Walgreens about a low cost set of “labs” from time to time. So if your doctor would be content with the results from one of these, it might save you a fair amount of money. There is also a combination testing device available (seen at a local Meijers) that can be used to test for cholesterol and blood sugar. Blood pressure testers are widely available at quite low cost. Doing your own monitoring is one way of cutting the cost of taking care of your own health.

  5. How About Those Apples?

    Patients can shop for health care services and products only when such prices are known and readily available when a patient’s care recommendations are made. So, doctors are essential to make this happen.

    Sean Parnell, author of The Self-Pay Patient, recently told his doctor about cheaper vendors for lab tests which had been ordered by his physician — and his doctor helped him get a better deal!

    Most physicians want their patients to get the best value for the health care dollar, but in 2014 doctors rarely know or deliberate over alternative available, less costly and equivalent lab tests, imaging, and medications when devising or negotiating a plan of care for their patients. This should stop.

    To reverse waste and excessive healthcare costs, Americans need to end our current over reliance on first dollar third party insurance coverage for much of our outpatient diagnostic testing and care. This can be done through much wider use of Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSA) paired with compatible patient owned high deductible insurance policies. Prudent shopping for value (cost-benefit) in turn supports a working, ongoing, person-centered doctor-patient alliance; doctors are an essential partner.

    Such “patient power” ought be as well given to patients (and their families) who are enrolled in public entitlement Medicaid and Medicare. The technology is here now to do this. How about those Apples?

    Lee H. Beecher, MD
    President, Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance (MPPA)

  6. Thanks for the info on the discount labs. I placed an order today with, and I saved enough to buy shoes for both of my boys. I love this website!


  7. Denver Todd says:

    Both of the main labs that service my area have discount programs for uninsured patients, but one of them administers their program only through participating doctor offices, the other one requires the draw be done only at their own offices. I had my panel done at my participating doctor office and the bill came to $232, and that was much less than retail.

    It looks like Econolabs is a good deal. For me to do that, I would have to have lab prescription from my doctor, and my doctor office requires me to pick that up in person, they won’t mail it to me. So it sort of comes down to time or money. Do I drive over there and pick up the paper and save some money, or do I have the test done at maybe not the best rate but with some time savings?

  8. rob parks says:

    You can also check out, they have unbeatable pricing for lab tests. They will also add any tests that you need, if they are not already listed on their site.

  9. Jim Adams says:

    Check out this site if you are a cash pay patient for labwork or even if you have insurance, but never meet your deductible. They offer discounted lab prices as they do not bill insurance. I had some lab tests performed there last year and will be going back when it is time this year. Lipid Panel was $20, CBC was $24, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel was $28 and TSH was $35. This place had an actual store front in my area which is different than some of the online ordering sites. It was a good experience.

  10. If you live in Georgia check out:

    Lab Tests To Go. VERY Inexpensive ! They’re based in Conyers, Ga and they have a mobile division. They do routine labs, alcohol breathylyzer, DNA paternity tests, Urine Drug screens and Board Certified DOT exams
    Contact them at: 770-285-6842
    Web Site:

  11. N. Y. says:

    Where are you located? We’re a Chicago-based lab, and our tests price are even lower. Our approach is to make healthcare accessible, no matter if you’re in between or don’t want to use insurance for whatever reason.

    The hard part about these online labs is that almost all them eventually send their work to Quest or LabCorp. It’s essentially a duopoly in the industry. And depends on how much volume / negotiations they’ve done w/ Quest or LabCorp for good patient prices (while still being able to cover their own costs).

    For a regional lab, like us, all you have to do is the get the bloodwork to us and rest is easy. We have hopes to expand where if you know you have bloodwork to be done, you could ship the specimen to us, once you get someone to draw it. We’re working hard to figure it out!

    We’re Simple Laboratories for a reason — our goal is to make it simple for patients and providers.

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